Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments are yet another issue plaguing the world at an increasing rate. Policies that actively limit practicing Muslims and outrightly discriminate against their beliefs and practices seem to be becoming more common in the international arena. The topic has gained popularity again on most social media platforms after years of debates, this time focusing on the recent actions of the French Parliament.
On February 16th, the lower house and Senate passed a ‘Separatist Bill.’ Public outcry followed over social media in which millions expressed their concern about how the bill targets the 5.7 million Muslims currently living in the country. Concealing its true meaning by naming it as a ‘neutrality principle,’ the government has prohibited its people from wearing religious symbols, including the Hijab, specifically banning girls under 18 from wearing it. Additionally, burkinis, a swimsuit meant to cover a woman’s entire body, has also been prohibited as a way of getting rid of any form of dress or clothing which ‘could signify an interiorization of women over men’ wearing the clothing in public spaces.
The bill’s motive has been the focus of many conversations worldwide, seeing as France happens to be the home of the largest Muslim community in all of Europe, making the bill even more influential than anywhere else. The bill was deliberately intended to discourage the advocacy of religious viewpoints in public. Although the Parliament’s decision does not mean that the ban is a law, it gives the public a clear idea about the views and sentiments of the majority.
This poses a huge issue since the Hijab is a symbol of faith, but rather a religious obligation for Muslim women that holds immense value in their everyday lives, without which women tend to feel exposed. Misinformed people in the government, such as Senator Bruno Retailleau, pose the meaningless argument that Hijabs and Burkinis are ‘sexist and markers of the submission of women’ even though, in reality, that is far from the truth. It doesn’t help that Prime Minister Jean Castex consented to the preposterous bill when he clarified that the legislation is not legislation against religionism nor the Muslim religion in particular. It is a law of emancipation in the face of religious fanaticism’. However, his point is hard to grasp given how the bill disproportionately affects more Muslim people than any other religion. This marks the Prime Ministers’ words as nothing but a fabricated statement that holds little to no value for him to avoid admitting that they are officially implementing anti-Muslim policies.
To pass a law that openly dictates what women can and cannot wear is a huge issue. By taking a deeper look into the meaning of the Hijab, its purpose is to protect women by maintaining a degree of privacy from unrelated men, proving its intention as nothing but pure. It seems as though the French government has found a way to manipulate the truth to fit its agenda of battling extremism. In reality, the Hijab is anything but threatening or extremist. This allows faithful women to feel threatened and sentences them to a life in which they must either give up their fundamental right to their freedom of religious expression and live in fear of persecution by the hands of non-Muslims.
Bills of this nature are an apparent attempt by the government and those in power to limit a woman’s ability to do what she wants and how she chooses to dress. It’s ironic to see how the government has somehow managed to twist the truth and make the bill into an argument about the oppression of women.
Although articles and Instagram blog posts have been circulating social media platforms, action needs to be taken to appeal this bill and submit it for reconsideration to avoid matters from getting worse in the future. If action is not taken, it is bound to set a precedent for future discriminatory bills, further marginalizing Muslims and threatening their existence. It’s worth noting that although France is the host of such a bill, it is not the only country that would be affected by its passing. Countries or territories such as Quebec have followed France’s footsteps by banning religious clothing such as ‘niqabs’. Additionally, European countries such as Denmark, Austria, and Bulgaria have also placed bans on facial coverings, proving that more and more Muslim women worldwide are being violated.
Allowing such bills and laws to move forward will only lead social inequality to flourish while simultaneously stripping women of their fundamental rights. If we let this out of control, such discriminatory sentiments can normalize more and more violence committed against Muslims. It can increase the likelihood of mass atrocities such as the current Islamic genocide taking place in China in which Uighur Muslims are tortured in concentration camps. The first step in preventing such crimes against humanity from happening, we must start at the roots by battling anti-Muslim sentiments in the law.
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